Reverse dieting is a strategic process of increasing macro intake (calorie intake) after being in a calorically restricted allocation or deficit for a prolonged amout of time, in order to slowly increase calories back to a maintenance level. This is an essential component to not only restoring one's metabolic rate, but also to achieve prolonged results. Our bodies are not made to function living at a calorie deficit amount for a very extended period of time. If you do not track macros, but you realize that you are eating below your TDEE (approximate calories your specific body burns daily) for several months to a year, your body has now adapted to eating that amount. In order to restore the metabolism (get your body used to a higher intake of calories, safely, with minimal weight gain) then reverse dieting would be an ideal option for you.
Can I REVERSE DIET if I have not met my weight loss goal?
OF COURSE, YOU CAN. In fact, if you have been in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, YOU SHOULD!
If you have been "stuck", or not progressing at a specific spot in your journey and already in a significant calorie deficit, reverse dieting will allow you to slowly build your maintenance calories up to a higher point, this allowing you to have a higher set to cut back from when the next fat loss phase begins again. Having your caloric intake slowly built back up after being in a prolonged deficit will allow for extended and long-term progress. Our bodies are not made to restrict calories time after time again. Our metabolisms are adaptive, which means we progress on what we teach it to do (exercise, calorie expenditure) and what we teach it to have (calorie intake). Once our bodies have adapted to a specific calorie intake, and weight loss starts to slow down, usually an adjustment is needed in order to see progress. If calories are repeatedly reduced to continuously put us in a new calorie deficit to reflect the new changes we have made in our body, that calorie intake gets lower and lower over time. A Reverse Diet will allow your body to safely and slowly build that calorie intake up. If you have indeed met any personal goal for your physique, then Reverse Dieting is an ideal fit to maintain your new hard-earned physique, yet slowly and safely build your metabolic rate back up. Which brings me to my next part....
Reverse Dieting into a Vacation
If you are planning out your Fat Loss phase with ample time leading up to a specific special event (wedding/ vacation), then meeting your fat loss goal BEFORE the intended date of the event is suggested, then reversing INTO your event. This will allow you to enjoy that fantastic trip, and enjoy the higher calories that will accompany it, with minimal weight gain, since your metabolism will already be used to a higher intake. Example: if during your cut, you got down to a low 1350 calories when the goal was achieved, and you then attended your vacation where your calorie intake averaged around 2250 calories per day, you would most likely not be able to maintain your new weight, since you would now be eating well over YOUR personal maintenance calories (remember, everyone's maintenance should be unique). BUT, if you had met your goal PRIOR to the event, and reversed into the event, building calories up closer to 2000 daily, you would be in an ideal spot for that higher intake, so you can enjoy it without a large fluctuation in your weight. AND NO GUILT (nor should you ever have any)!
What Can I Expect from a Reverse Diet?
Like almost all components to health and fitness, each individual's outcome will vary. It is normal to experience an increase in energy, mood and strength, an improvement in sleep quality, and a reduction in stress. Some may experience a reduction in hunger, since calories are higher and the level of satiation has most likely improved, while others may experience an increase in hunger. Again, everyone will have and should have a unique experience. In some cases, during a Reverse Diet phase, I have experienced clients have wonderful success reducing any present binge eating habits they may previously have suffered from prior. For some, this process of a Reverse can be extremely pleasurable and enjoyable, since more food is able to be added to their daily allotment, while others may find this process difficult to allow for higher calorie consumption. In my opinion, there is not a right or wrong feeling, ever, and both feelings are completely normal and to be expected. Regardless of the situation, reverse dieting does require adequate time and consistency in order to be effective.
How long should I Reverse Diet for?
Again, everyone will have a different time frame, length, purpose and need suitable for them, so the length of a reverse will vary per each individual. I personally never suggest to reverse for shorter than a 6-week period. I do personally believe a longer reverse can be much more beneficial to truly speed up one's metabolic rate. A more modest (slower calorie additions) and LONGER reverse phase, will only be MORE BENEFICIAL for YOU!
How should my Training and Cardio change during a Reverse Diet?
If the goal is to remain close to your current weight during the reverse diet phase, I personally suggest keeping your activity level stable in the beginning phase of a reverse. Each individual should have different needs for their training and cardio routines.
Will I gain weight on a Reverse Diet?
Notice I saved this question for the end? This is my absolutely least favorite question, but of course the most common one. With any caloric increase, there of course is a chance an individual will gain weight. The purpose of Reverse Diet is NOT to cut weight during the time of the reverse phase, but instead set up success for a future cutting phase. Every individual will have a unique experience with how much weight they will gain with a reverse diet. Some individuals may maintain their weight during the entire duration of their Reverse Phase, some may actually LOSE during their Reverse, while some will gain a few 6-week phase. There is no perfect formula to predict here, nor should you stress the answer to this question. The entire purpose of the Reverse Phase itself is to set you up for success, not hinder you. Remember, that if a Reverse Diet phase was recommended for you by a coach, there was a reason for it. Trust the process.
Why don't we RE PHRASE the above question to, "Should I expect to gain weight on a Reverse Diet?"
My answer; YES, of course you should, and whatever number is gained will come back down very quickly. I will assure you, that the longer and slower the reverse diet is done, the less weight will be gained. I personally prefer a slow reverse; carefully increasing calories each week or bi weekly, with the goal to keep my clients weight THE SAME. My goal is always to keep my clients comfortable and happy, no matter the phase they are in.
Who SHOULD NOT REVERSE?
Reverse Dieting will not be beneficial or even needed quiet yet, if you have NOT been compliant on your deficit macros (or on your meal plan). If you have been having extra BLT (bites, licks, tastes), or untracks glasses of alcohol, not getting your workouts in, not properly tracking, or simply not being honest with yourself or your coach, a reverse will not be needed.
The entire point of a reverse, is to build your metabolic adaptation back up to a higher amount, IF your body HAS INDEED gotten used to a LOW number of calories. Therefore, if any of the previous details I mentioned pertain to you, then your caloric intake is indeed higher than your designed deficit, which is exactly why you are not seeing the results you wish to see.
Simply put: if you haven’t adhered to your plan as it is designed, then your calories are not in fact as low as your coach thinks they are, hence, a reverse is not needed yet. This is exactly why HONESTY and COMMUNICATION are the 2 crucial components to seeing PROGRESS!
“I came to Tara with the intention of dropping 10#'s and toning up. I figured that'd take me about 3 months and I'd be ready for a vacation I had planned. I have gained so much more than I ever imagined from working with her. I have been working with Tara for 10 months and have gained so much knowledge about macros and a sustainable lifestyle. I began with a cut and body re-composition for several months and got fantastic results. Since then, we have been reverse dieting to slowly bring up my daily calories to a higher maintenance level. I can confidently say that I am in the best shape of my life at 45 years old, as a mom of three and I feel wonderful. Tara has taught me so much about balance and that food and carbs are not the devil. I am eating more than I ever have in my life and truly enjoy what I'm eating every day. What I have gained from working with Tara has been incredible. My relationship with food is so much more-healthy and I feel in control of my diet and lifestyle for the first time in my life. It takes consistency and hard work but if you trust her and trust the process, IT WORKS!”